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SUV Throwdown: Comparing the Best 2014 Luxury SUVs

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Every week here at Carfax, we have a Thursday Throwdown where we compare vehicles of a similar class and type on various merits to create a “best of” list in the grandest of Internet traditions. We, of course, will base these lists on specific criteria rather than randomly picking and hope that these lists highlight not only the excellence that automakers are offering in most vehicle segments, but also the wonderful variance there is within those groups of vehicles, giving the consumer a wide breadth of choices when buying a vehicle.

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In today’s Throwdown, we’re looking at large, luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The choices for best 2014 luxury SUVs aren’t easy to make, given the excellence offerings in this category. For reference, an SUV is defined as any truck-like vehicle that seats at least five and is fully enclosed. Unlike other SUV segments, the large SUV rarely sees crossovers (car-based chassis vehicles) in its ranks.

The term “luxury” is not defined for automotive by any dictionary, but is instead defined by manufacturers for marketing purposes and by consumer perception of the term. Often, the terms “premium” and “luxury” intertwine with the only difference between a vehicle in either segment being the nameplate rather than the price tag. For our purposes, we are defining a “luxury SUV” as any sport utility vehicle from a premium or upscale brand that is specifically targeted in the automaker’s marketing to buyers that can afford to pay a premium price.  As a reference point, most luxury SUVs, when new, retail for over $55,000.

Our best luxury SUV list for 2014 is given in alphabetical order by manufacturer and model. We will focus on the high and low points for the specific model as well as safety ratings and capability. Our data comes from a combination of expert vehicle reviews (both in-house and at other publications), government and insurance industry crash testing, and Carfax history report data by model.

Limited Crash Test Safety Ratings

Crash test data is limited for 2014 luxury SUVs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is tasked with crash testing vehicles for the federal government. It rates vehicles with up to five stars in each of three categories (Frontal Crash/Side Crash/Rollover) plus Overall. You can find out more about the NHTSA’s testing procedures here.  Among the 2014 luxury SUVs in our Thursday Throwdown, the NHTSA has rated only the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests are not listed as no large SUVs from our list were tested by the IIHS.

2014 Cadillac Escalade

2014 Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac Escalade. Image by Abdullah AlBargan.

The 2014 Escalade is the last of this generation of the popular Cadillac SUV before the all-new 2015 model year takes over. As such, its primary weaknesses are a cramped third row and somewhat dated interior amenities and technology. For the used car buyer or bargain hunter on the dealer’s lot, however, this means that the 2014 Cadillac Escalade is likely going to be undervalued for the rest of the year.

The 2014 Escalade is a powerful American-branded sport utility with a strong V8 engine, well-tuned six-speed automatic transmission, and is a smooth ride.

MSRP: From $63,745
MPG: Up to 14 city, 18 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: 4 stars – 5 front / 5 side / 3 rollover

2014 Infiniti QX80

2014 Infiniti QX80 - house - AOA1200px
2014 Infiniti QX80. Photo by Aaron Turpen

One of the largest sport utilities on our list here, the Infiniti QX80 is definitely large and in charge and this size, along with its contemporary styling, has made it a popular choice in full-sized luxury SUVs. Formerly known as the QX56, the QX80 is powered by a hefty 5.6-liter V8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission which deliver respectable power, towing, and fuel economy. The QX80 is exceedingly comfortable and handles well while seating seven, but its design may be polarizing. Cargo space is somewhat limited compared to rivals due to the size of the third row of seats (which may be a plus for passengers riding there).

MSRP: From $62,700
MPG: 14 city / 20 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Land Rover Range Rover

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Image by Land Rover MENA.

One of the most well-considered SUVs on the market for its legendary offroad capability and powerful handling is the Range Rover. With a supercharged V8 option and an eight-speed transmission, the Rover’s primary weaknesses are fuel economy and a lack of a third row of seating.

With an almost mythical persona, the Range Rover is a capable, luxurious SUV.

MSRP: From $89,225
MPG: 17 city / 23 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Lexus GX 460

This is a smaller SUV than most of the others on our list, though this luxury vehicle is a good contender thanks to its tight turning and more than capable offroad abilities. For some buyers, this is the luxury SUV of choice, however, for its relatively small price tag, though the design for this luxury vehicle is becoming outdated.

MSRP: From $65,965
MPG: 15 city / 20 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Lexus LX 570

2014 Lexus LX570 - bigsky - AOA1200px
2014 Lexus LX570. Photo by Aaron Turpen

The LX 570 is a well-received, strong luxury SUV in the market. This Lexus is one of the more truck-like of our luxury SUV lineup, with a square build and definite focus on offroad capability and tough durability. The LX 570’s primary weakness is a less refined highway ride and a smaller cargo area, though the third row is relatively large for the segment. The awkward third row folding and unfolding process, which takes up valuable space on the sidewalls of the cargo space, is likely the most-cited complaint for this luxury SUV. Still, it is one of the most off-road capable SUVs on our list.

MSRP: From $82,630
MPG: 12 city / 17 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Lincoln Navigator

2014 Lincoln Navigator
2014 Lincoln Navigator. Image by Lord of the Wings.

One of the best-selling luxury utility vehicles in the U.S. is the Lincoln Navigator. It is noted for its size, interior spaciousness, and refined highway ride. All three rows are habitable by adults and the cargo space is cavernous while the exterior look is contemporary but highly refined. The price point for the Navigator is lower than many of the luxury SUVs on our list, but its interior is also not as posh as some of the others and the large wheelbase of this huge truck-based SUV makes it difficult to maneuver in parking lots and narrow streets.

MSRP: From $56,165
MPG: Up to 14 city, 20 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: 4 – 4 front / 5 side / 4 rollover

2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Mercedes-Benz G Class
Mercedes Benz G Class SUV. Photo by CEFICEFI

Likely the most easily recognized of the luxury sport utilities on our list, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a throwback design with a big, square look that many find highly appealing as an immediately recognizable status symbol. Major weaknesses for the G-Class, however, are poor handling and fuel economy. Available in various models according to engine choice, the G-Class also has limited seating, but has a well-deserved reputation for being excellent off the road and for fast acceleration and top-notch build quality.

MSRP: From $114,200
MPG: Up to 12 city, 15 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

Most notable as a well-rounded sport utility with a solid reputation for luxury and everyday usability, the GL-Class is offered in several trims, designated by number, depending on the buyer’s wants for the vehicle. The most popular is the GL350, which has a V6 turbodiesel offering excellent fuel economy and the lowest price in the GL lineup. A V8 gasoline engine option is available as the GL450 and GL550 models and the sport-tuned GL63 AMG is part of Mercedes’ legendary factory tuner line. The GL-Class has seating for seven and its greatest weakness is its lackluster handling in tight corners and hefty price tag.

MSRP: From $63,000
MPG: Up to 19 city, 26 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

2014 Toyota Land Cruiser
2014 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Nadir Hashmi

Although not always considered a “luxury SUV” as it is not a part of Toyota’s premium brand Lexus, the Land Cruiser is considered a premium vehicle, and thus makes our list. The ample V8 powerplant and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic are a nice combination, though fuel economy is low for the class. Another weakness is cargo space and of the SUVs on our list, the Land Cruiser is the least luxurious. However, it has a legendary and deserved reputation for offroad capability and durability as well as family hauling.

MSRP: From $79,605
MPG: 13 city / 18 highway
NHTSA Safety Rating: Not Rated

Did you find this useful?

If the answer is “yes”, then there is a high chance that you will enjoy our comparison of the Best Mid-Size SUV of 2014 and our advice on how to find the best small SUV that suits you.

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